Deploying rainmaking jets to battle drought, pollution

THE Kingdom plans to deploy 30 aircraft nationwide for cloud-seeding operations to induce artificial rain to battle air pollution and ease dry weather conditions in the main crop-growing areas.

The South-East Asian country kicked off its so-called annual royal rainmaking programme on Thursday, setting up seven centres across the country’s 77 provinces for operations in March and April, the government said in a statement.

This year’s operations will rely on 24 aircraft from the Royal Rainmaking Department and six jets from the Royal Thai Air Force, it said.

Rainmaking is necessary to ease the impact of climate change on Thailand’s agricultural sector and prevent hailstorm and forest fires in some regions of the country, Agriculture Minister Thamanat Prompow said.

The artificial rain will also ease persistent pollution problems such as smog and unhealthy levels of fine particulate matter known as PM2.5, he said.

The operations will also replenish water supply in reservoirs and dams in the country, which can be used for farming in irrigated areas.

Thailand’s summer season began on Feb 21 and will last until mid-May, according to the state weather forecaster.

Thailand faces a harsh summer this year with the temperature forecast to rise as high as 44.5ºC in some parts of the country, the weather agency said last week.

A combination of humidity, wind and other factors last year pushed the heat index to a record of over 50ºC in parts of the country, pushing electricity demand to the highest level ever.

Bangkok, Chiang Mai and other Thai cities have grappled with poor air quality in recent years, with pollution tending to get worse in the dry season starting around December due largely to agricultural burning, forest fires in neighbouring countries and vehicular emission. —Bloomberg

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